By Angela Hazuda Meyers

In honor of the spectacular colors of the season, we are highlighting a series of hikes that showcase nature’s beauty. Enjoy one of these hikes close to home, or opt for one within a few hours drive.

Splendor in the Shenandoah: In Northern VA we are blessed with being in one of those locations that is close to it all: mountains, beach, plains, lakes, country, city. You can get to a wide variety of options within 1-5 hours. And in the Fall we are really showered with some of the best of nature’s treasures, including the gorgeous Shenandoah National Park. Skyline drive is renowned for its fabulous foliage. Here are 3 hikes that deliver great views and are dog friendly as well. 

Hawksbill Mountain: This hike really delivers at the end with outstanding 360 degree views. You are walking through trees on the steep ascent most of the time, but when you hit the summit, you are rewarded. This is the highest summit in Shenandoah. It is dog friendly, but dog and owner alike need to be in shape for this hike. It’s a short trip to the summit, only .8 miles, but it’s steep. You can do this hike 2 ways: a 1.5 mile out and back OR continue on past the summit and complete the 3 mile loop (you’ll connect with Salamander Trail, then take a right onto the Appalachian Trail (AT) for 1 mile back to the parking lot). All trails are well marked. Park at milepost (MP) 45.6 on Skyline Drive for trail access.

Rose River Trail Loop: This trail is so beautiful anytime of year, but really lovely in the fall. Hit it after a rain if you want to experience the full effect of the waterfalls. It does tend to be drier in the fall, but when you hit it just right, the trees, reflections and waterfalls are incredibly gorgeous. Hike this loop clockwise to get the best views and to use the fire road for the ascent. The trail is a 3.5 mile loop, very dog-friendly, though rather rocks, so pups and people both need to be ware. In general this is an easy to moderate loop. The trail begins across from Fishers Gap Overlook, which is worth a stop, just north of MP 50 on Skyline Drive. Park at Fishers Gap Overlook, and cross Skyline Drive to access the trail.

Little Stony Man Loop: A moderate trail with lots of interesting areas, this trail also offers at least 3 substantial vistas. The best path is to start out counterclockwise on Little Stony Man/AT, then head up the Summit loop trail, which is a short.2 miles out and a return loop of .3 miles. When you return from the summit, turn left back onto the AT. After .8 miles the AT splits off and you’ll pick us Passamaquoddy Trail which will take you back to the parking lot. There are great views along Passamaquoddy. The total loop is 3.4 miles. Park in the Little Stony Man parking area located at MP 39.1. Just past the parking area, you will find facilities including restrooms, a restaurant and picnic area. 

Here are some throwbacks to great hikes we have done over the past 11 years. They all offer outstanding fall colors, and are great hikes very close to the DC metro area. 

Color Close to your Condo 

There are so many great hikes to explore in the DMV. The fall leaves provide an extra colorful walk in the woods. These great hikes have been featured in previous issues of NOVADog. The hike details are all available online under Previous Issues. Each of these hikes provides spectacular fall leaves all, fairly close to home.  

US Arboretum (Spring 2010): One of the top-rated Fall walks in DC. The 446 pristine acres over rolling hills, are definitely a fall favorite for locals, but the best part, is you won’t encounter crowds. The DC Arboretum remains one of the areas hidden gems. 

Rock Creek Park (Fall 2012): A year-round walking and jogging hot spot, this areas inner trails shine in the fall. They are often less traveled and run along reflective streams. 

Roosevelt Island (Fall 2009): Although well-traveled, it’s for good reason. This “island destination” still feels remote. Though the parking lot often can’t fit another car, arrive by foot or bike and you will find plenty of space to stretch your legs on the varied trail systems TRI offers.

Dumbarton Oaks Park (Winter 2017): A true gem in the city. This park is incredibly dog-friendly and your pup won’t be able to help making a new friend. Trails through the main part of the park are more like a dog park, trails out to the pack of the park offer a more secluded retreat.

Great hikes close to the Beltway

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve (Winter 2009): This colorful hike runs along the streamside for a substantial length, as well it offers great vistas and views.

Difficult Run (Fall 2011): This scenic loop is one of the best close to the beltway. It’s an easy hike, low elevation change and the stream offers lovely views and you’ll receive a few waterfall treats.

Riverbend Park (Winter 2012): Running along the Potomac, you’ll get amazing views of the fall foliage across the river. The reflections off the water are spectacular. 

Potomac Heritage Trail (Fall 2014): Another local hike that meanders along the Potomac River and provides amazing views of the trees across the river. The color show is an intense treat. This trail, which runs parallel to the Mount Vernon Trail, hugs the water much closer and since it’s unpaved, it also much less traveled.

Angela Meyers is the owner of NOVADog Magazine.